For the 55th anniversary of the original release of Here’s Little Richard, Concord Music Group has reissued a remaster of his debut on Specialty Records. This reissue also features a bunch of extras to put the album into context and provide some information on its meaning and background (and make total nerds like me wig out, of course). I wish I could just shout my review, but here it is in written form.
It’s great to have this album presented as an event in history—something you need to know facts about to understand—because it IS a historic event, one which influences us now, and will do so for a long time.
Since the Internet made access to songs and performances by other obscure artists of the time easier, there has been some discussion on whether Little Richard was really as original as he claims to be, and on his supposed influences. But when it comes to him as a musician, this is missing the point. This album was made before rock became a straight white guy institution, before concepts of originality and authenticity in rock were formed.
Here’s Little Richard epitomizes the last moments of the old blues and bluesrock culture, where everything was more fluent, and sexuality, identity, and music genres blended together in the space outside mainstream culture. But here it is bursting into that mainstream culture right before being assimilated, deviant practice and forbidden lyrics and all. Listening to it all again just shows you how conformist a lot of rock is.
The remaster itself is amazing, as you expect it to be, with a great crisp sound quality that makes it sound like it’s happening now. It’s just such a great, driven, unique record, and the songs have been filed down to perfection. It’s the sort of album that makes you dance while you’re doing the washing up. It’s fun and, despite all the changed lyrics and so on, still edgy, so many years after it was made.
The bonus tracks are the two demos that were submitted to Specialty Records, and an interview with Art Rupe, founder of the record company. The interview is great for placing the album into context, and for giving an outside perspective on the start of Little Richard’s career. Rupe describes the sort of commercial background of signing Little Richard, mentioning they wanted someone like BB King, and how the fact that Little Richard was eventually signed was due in large part his own persistence in applying.
He talks about the way Little Richard left music for religion, and the effect that had on the company. Rupe also includes some nice anecdotes about lyric changes and how Little Richard landed the theme song for the film The Girl Can’t Help It. The interview is elaborated on further in the liner notes, which also contain some solid analysis of changes to the songs and how the album was written and recorded. The liner notes, by the way, also have some truly gorgeous pictures of the man himself, if you’re into that sort of thing.
There are also two videos included, straightforward screen test performances of “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally,” which are great for showing Little Richard so early on in his career, and also for being in color (a lovely plum background really suits him).
Well, if it were up to me, they would teach the reissue of Here’s Little Richard in schools. As it is, I guess I’ll just play it—to everyone, all the time—and see what happens.
Here’s Little Richard was reissued by Concord Music Group on April 17 and is available to purchase from their website.